Helen Miles in her Edinburgh studio.

Helen Miles trained in the art of mosaic making with master craftsmen in Greece who taught using traditional methods with a focus on Byzantine iconography. She later became interested in Roman mosaics and now makes contemporary pieces for interior and exterior spaces.

Octopus and fish. September, 2016. Edinburgh, Scotland. Helen Miles Mosaics.

Born in Glasgow, Helen studied English at Oxford University before moving to America and the Middle East to work as a journalist. It was in 2003 while living in Thessaloniki in Greece, a UNESCO city famous for its concentration of Byzantine churches, that she began to study mosaics in the Byzantine tradition. This led to an interest in Roman mosaics and her passion for them went on to become a full time profession.

face detail of damaged byzantine mosaic
These mosaic fragments were rescued from the fire damaged church of St. Dimitrios. Now in the Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki. @Helen Miles Mosaics

Helen is now based at Out of the Blue Abbeymount Studios in Edinburgh. Up until recently she specialised in using Greek stone and marble but is currently exploring the use of alternative materials including unglazed porcelain, Scottish stne and sea shells. Her aim is to preserve the simplicity and directness of early mosaics while producing works which suit the way we live now.

Helen Miles in her Edinburgh studio _ hands detail.
Helen Miles at work in her Edinburgh studio_ hands detail. Photo: @Ashley Erdman

‘I have always loved things which are made by the slow and deliberate accumulation of parts whether the dry stone walls of the North or a sentence that contains all that needs to be said. The result seems casual, organic and simple but the process is usually long and far from effortless. So it is with mosaics.

mosaic mouse and aubergine
This is a detail from my own variation of the Unswept Floor motif used repeatedly in ancient times. For this mosaic I incorporated the ‘detritus’ of the owner’s life including aubergines which she loves. @Helen Miles Mosaics

‘Roman mosaics provide a rich source of inspiration from their braided borders to their use of colour and surprising themes. I have travelled widely to both obscure and well known sites to see ancient mosaics in situ and study them closely in museums. The Romans did not confine mosaics to a decorative element in interior designs but used them to relay messages about their owners’ loves, fears, status and communities. It is this which fascinates me and keeps me firmly in their thrall,’ says Helen.

Lod partridge and chicks mosaic
Lod mosaic, 3rd century AD, detail of partridge and chicks. @Helen Miles Mosaics